Editor's Choice

Iritron’s year of consolidation

March 2024 Editor's Choice System Integration & Control Systems Design

Despite the multiple challenges faced by businesses in South Africa, the buoyancy of the technology sector worldwide has produced some green shoots for automation specialist, Iritron. This has been driven by advances in IIoT, smart sensors, on-line asset management, digital methodologies, and information sharing in the IT environment. The company has commissioned a number of projects in both the mining sector and in food processing production lines involving advanced technology solutions.

Alwyn Rautenbach, CEO of Iritron.

According to Iritron CEO, Alwyn Rautenbach, the manufacturing and agricultural sectors in Gauteng and Western Cape are buoyant. The application of integrated digital control systems for solar energy installations is a growing aspect of its business. The same is true in the mining sector. “By combining our instrumentation and control expertise in the mining space with developments in solar, we have launched the concept of solar-powered Wi-Fi trailers, which bring Wi-Fi into the open pit environment. This allows remote control of autonomous drilling operations, and traffic control of vehicles operating in an open pit, resulting in safety improvements and cost and fuel savings to the mine,” he says.

“Automation, digital control and the complex synchronisation of electric motor driven equipment has been an Iritron success story, and has established us as the go-to experts for industrial control management, plant optimisation and data recording,” he continues.

In the mining space, the firm has been active in the delivery of automation and on-site instrumentation of crushers at an iron ore mine. It was involved with another customer in the upgrading of highly complex motor control and variable speed drives for plant controlling fans, pumps and conveyors. “The first four of a total of 67 motor control centres have been commissioned on this project, on time and within budget. This involved the replacement of obsolete equipment with advanced electronics, in an extremely confined space. We redesigned proprietary equipment in conjunction with the OEM, while ensuring that our design didn’t compromise the OEM certification and guarantees of the equipment. Furthermore, advance software programming skills allowed the synchronisation of conveyor motor drives. There were up to four VSDs per conveyor, all of which had to operate completely in unison,” he explains.

Further mining projects on multiple fronts have involved management consulting to devise strategies and specifications for asset management systems, data sharing at ERP level, and the integration of existing communication systems with more advanced communications and telemetry. Designed and installed by Iritron, these systems provide management with a completely integrated dashboard for everyday operations and for disaster management incidents.

The global nature of the mining industry has placed greater emphasis on ESG issues, and the accurate accounting, tracking and reporting of metal production. Global mining companies place as much emphasis on accurately accounting and reporting on production and work in progress as on financial accounting and reporting. Iriton’s integration and software expertise addresses all these challenges.

Food production lines are another area of Iritron expertise, with recent projects aimed at optimising canning and packaging operations for major producers.

“Currently, we are commissioning a data recording system for measuring line efficiency on a canning plant that produces condiments in Tzaneen. The customer had a target of increasing plant capacity by 50%, and required an integrated solution which measured line efficiency and performance of its fill and cap machine. Calling on two different technologies, our engineers were able to provide the customer with a system that records throughput against a target plan, identifies quality issues, and records downtime and line blockages. Such is the sophistication of the system that a plant manager can interrogate the system from any location via a smart phone.

In a separate project, Iritron upgraded a TrakSYS system with a completely automated solution to allow the tracking and seamless capture of the mass and throughput of palletised products from production to warehouse.

What of 2024?

“Mines are demanding more technology to provide automation and real time, online condition monitoring for critical equipment such as drainage pumps, compressors, and bulk handling equipment like crushers and conveyors in order to improve efficiency and control costs. Collection of the operating data of these assets and presenting the information in a visual form allows mine engineers to optimise operations and to predict and prevent equipment failures while recording machine performance and power consumption.

“Demand for copper and PGMs by battery manufacturers has led to an upswing in mining activities further north in Africa. Iritron has followed the trend, providing automated and system solutions for enterprises in Gabon, Senegal, Zambia and Tanzania. This situation is likely to grow as the switch to EVs gathers momentum,” concludes Rautenbach.

Iritron’s commitment to efficiency solutions in mining, coupled with the company’s foray into the solar power industry with sophisticated control systems and specialised Wi-Fi enabled solar trailers, makes the future looks bright, despite local economic headwinds.


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